Leadership Day: Change the Debate

Scott McLeod put out a call for bloggers to comment on leadership in k-12 schools for change on matters of technology.

Here’s my comment.

Last week, when I came back from NECC, I sent an e-mail to my department chair… who is also my school’s academic dean… to tell him about some of the things that I’d seen and done there, and how to put them to work in our history department. I cc:’ed it to our new head of school.

Among the ideas I advanced were the introduction of wikis and blogging software to our server, and promoting the use of WordPress, OpenOffice, GIMP and other open source software tools.

In the past, the nature of these discussions at my school has run between the positions of “should we have this technology?” or “shouldn’t we have this technology?”  We were focused on other issues, and internet computing

My head sent a response to this e-mail interchange.  He said, “We used blogger.com” at his old school.

Just a very small number of words.

My department head later told me that our new head of school had come into a meeting in order to get the participants to agree to another meeting time.  Everyone whipped out their paper calendars.  The new head said words like, “You can put it there for now, but I want it on the master calendar before the end of the day. Everyone needs to be able to get at it digitally.”

Behold.  Like that, the debate “should we or shouldn’t we?” is over. Now the discussion is over “what tools will we use” as opposed to “are these legitimate tools?”

A few days later, I ran into our new head of school while I picked up my summer mail.  “We have a meeting at 10:00 next week,” he said. “Can we shift it to 11?” He asked me if I needed a reminder, and when I pulled out my iPhone to record the time change, he instantly relaxed.

Maybe he relaxed because a burden was off his mind, but I like to think that he relaxed because I trusted a digital calendar.  He wasn’t going to have to remind himself to remind his secretary to remind me to come to a meeting next Friday at a different time than originally planned. He could move on to the next thing on his to-do list.

Our meeting is to talk technology, that’s just a meeting.  By his initial actions our new head has shown

  1. The school is going to use, and trust, its digital calendar;
  2. e-mail communication is not just for the peons; it’s for everyone;
  3. the answer to tech is not “should we?” but “how and what will we?”

So there’s my Leadership Day advice for all k-12 leaders out there.  Whenever you see an intractable debate that’s paralyzed your school for years, pick the side that wants to move forward, use their tools, and imagine the possibilities.  Then cast a clear deciding vote: don’t just say “yes you can” to a new tool, but  say “yes, I use it,” and demonstrate its usefulness to you and your stakeholders right away.

You have a month or so before school starts to experiment.  Your teachers don’t want to wait until day one of school to get up and running. They want to plan, and they’re waiting for permission.  Don’t just give them permission — lead the way.

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  1. I agree that an admin who says, Yes, I use it, sends a strong message to a teacher. It’s not some esoteric platform. It’s something in use and if my boss is using it, they must support it.
    Nice post

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